Born in Saitama-ken, Japan to a Japanese American Nisei (second generation) father and a Japanese mother, June Kuramoto, along with three siblings lived just outside of Tokyo. Her father sent her mother and three siblings to Los Angeles where the children can get a better education. She was raised in the largely African American and Japanese American community called Crenshaw.
It was destiny that brought a renowned koto master, Madame Kazue Kudo, protégée of Japan's famous kotoist and composer, Michio Miyagi, to the United States about the same time. Madame Kudo began teaching koto in June's family home. June, six years old at that time, began taking lessons. She found comfort in playing the koto and became a musical prodigy.
June went on to become one of the few koto masters in America today. She found a connection to her heritage in Japanese music. By her late teens, she received advanced degrees from the Miyagi School of Koto in Japan. For over 30 years, she performed as a spotlighted classical and contemporary kotoist. She served as President of the Koto String Society that produced shows with up to 100 koto performers with full symphony orchestras and choir. As a young, vibrant and talented American kotoist who played in numerous concerts in Little Tokyo, June inspired many other young Sansei (third generation Japanese Americans) to take up the koto.
June’s artistry reflects this diverse musical culture. Blending the sounds of this beautiful acoustic Japanese instrument with keyboards, saxophone, drums and bass, her musicianship with Hiroshima has helped to define the multi-cultural (American) contemporary jazz genre.
Early in her career as a featured musician in Hiroshima, June was asked to play koto with many top artists and composers. Because koto music is not written in the form of western notation, she spent hours transposing the western notes to the Japanese character notation of koto music. Her recording credits include a myriad of television and movie scores including “The Last Samurai” (as a featured musician); “Black Rain”; “Heroes” (NBC); “East Meets West” (Food Network); “Simply Ming” (PBS); and commercials including Hilton Hotel Benihana (national); Suntory Light (Japan); Hawaiian Electric (Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii).
June went on to produce, compose and perform on three solo albums that garnered rave reviews.
In 1989, June was one of the featured band members in "Sansei", the critically acclaimed musical drama created and performed live by Hiroshima, which became the third highest grossing show in the history of the Los Angeles Music Center's, Mark Taper Forum. June has been recognized with many awards both as an individual and as a principal member of Hiroshima, including commendations from The Smithsonian, the U.S. Congress, City and County of Los Angeles and the State of California Senate and Assembly and from various other cities and states. Community awards have come from the National Japanese American Citizens League, The National Japanese American Historical Society and the Asian Business League. One of her most cherished awards was being inducted into the Dorsey High School Hall of Fame in 2007.
With the recent resurgence in audiences clamoring to hear jazz, Hiroshima has played to sold out audiences at venues like the Hollywood Bowl (2019) and the Capital Jazz Supercruise (2020), a wildly popular cruise where fans can enjoy a variety of jazz artists. Throughout her long musical career, June always found time to teach the next generation of American koto players as well as budding new musicians. From leading a group of senior citizen kotoists to conducting classes for children at LA’s Buddhist temples, she recently mentored a group of young multicultural musicians for the Los Angeles Inception Orchestra.
2003 Spirit & Soul
2005 The Way of Tea
2009 Under the Stars
1983 Third Generation
1985 Another Place
1987 Go; 1989 East
1994 Best of Hiroshima
1996 Urban World Music
1999 Between Black and White
2003 The Bridge
2004 Spirit of the Season
2007 Little Tokyo
2013 J-Town Beat
2015 Songs with Words
2020 currently working on CD entitled “2020”
NBC “Asian Pacific America” Robert Handa Interview with June Kuramoto 2014
NBC “Asian Pacific America” Performance 2014
HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC 2019
THOUSAND CRANES Blue Note Hawaii 2016
ONE WISH Charlotte NC 2014
GO at the Soul Train Awards with George Duke March 30, 1988
Classical Japanese Performances
SAKURA at DESCANSO GARDENS 3/16/18
KOTO STRING SOCIETY
LA JAZZ SCENE, October, 2019 HOLLYWOOD BOWL “Smooth Summer Jazz” August 18, 2019:
The evening was highlighted by Kuramoto’s stellar koto playing that interweaved with elements of jazz, funk, R&B and world music. Later, traditional tinged ballad “Turning Point” and a funk/jazz jam additionally displayed Kuramoto’s koto mastery.
SMOOTH JAZZ RIDE, Concert Review Birchmere Music Hall Alexandria, VA April 12, 2014
June Kuramoto, the koto princess, introduced “Thousand Cranes” from the 1989 East album — one of my favorites — and totally mesmerized the audience with this beautiful and haunting piece. Needless to say, Kuramoto’s interpretation of this is most moving, and the thirteen strings and thirteen bridges of the mystical koto speak all of the words necessary. --Ronald Jackson
URBAN MAGAZINE Review of “Spirit and Soul” October, 10, 2003
After nearly 30 years, with the multi-cultural band, Ms. Kuramoto steps out with her very first solo album “Sprit and Soul.” It is one of the most heavenly albums you will EVER hear…” Urban radio should pay special attention to “Eye of the Beholder’” which features sax legend James Moody.
ENTERTAINMENT TODAY MAGAZINE, “Best of Music 2002 #1”
The first solo foray by Hiroshima kotoist June Kuramoto, perhaps the most beautiful album of the year in terms of taking one into another plane spiritually. –Paul Anderson